Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

March 28, 2008

1 2 3… Set me free!

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 6:59 pm

March 28, 2008

Cast: Sunil Shetty, Tusshar Kapoor, Paresh Rawal, Esha Deol, Sameera Reddy, Neetu Chandra

Director: Ashwani Dhir

Let’s assume you had the worst week of your life — you lost your job, you were mugged at gunpoint, and your wife ran off with your best friend. Understandably, you’re looking for something to cheer you up, and considering the week you’ve just had, even an average comedy would make you smile. One Two Three, from director Ashwani Dhir is not that film. It’s not likely to uplift your spirits; in fact, I won’t be surprised if it depresses you some more.

In the tradition of many recent brain-dead comedies, One Two Three is another one of those stupid films that has neither script nor plot to speak of, yet hopes you will ignore all of that and succumb to its juvenile attempts at making you laugh.

The film’s about three guys with the same name who land up at the same place and get mistaken for one another, all of it ending up in much chaos. Laxmi Narayan No 1 is Tusshar Kapoor a wannabe gangster, Laxmi Narayan No 2 is Sunil Shetty a dim-witted office employee, and Laxmi Narayan No 3 is Paresh Rawal a bra-and-panties retailer.

All three show up in Pondicherry — or Pondy as they keep referring to it in the film — on different missions, but all hell breaks loose when one gets mixed up for the other. Sameera Reddy, Esha Deol and Neetu Chandra play the ladies who find themselves inadvertently involved with the three Laxmi Narayans.

Wait, there’s more — Upen Patel and Tanisha Mukherjee are a young couple who chance upon a precious diamond that one of our Laxmi Narayans is here to seize. And if that wasn’t enough already, there’s also an assortment of underworld dons and henchmen who jump into the fray.

Borrowing gags from a wide range of sources — the Mr Bean series, to a bunch of similarly tacky B-grade comedies — One Two Three delivers pedestrian humour including cheap sex jokes, and silly one-liners every other minute. There is so much talk of bra-sizes and ill-fitting underwear that it makes you want to gag the writer with his own pair. Apart from maybe three moments that genuinely make you giggle, the rest of this film is one bitter pill to swallow.

It doesn’t help that the film’s endlessly long and the actors frustratingly foolish. Surprisingly, it’s the wooden-as-a-block Sunil Shetty who lucks out with the wittiest role in this film. The rest, including Paresh Rawal, are an absolute embarrassment.

Of course that’s just one out of five and a thumbs down for Ashwani Dhir’s One Two Three. It’s the kind of film that’ll make you want your ticket money back!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Tuneless ballad

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 6:56 pm

March 28, 2008

Cast: Jaya Bachchan, Om Puri, Prthviraj Choudhury, Shahana Chatterjee, Mallika Sarabhai

Director: Jayabrato Chatterjee

Latest in the line of English language films set in the Bengali milieu, director Jayabrato Chatterjee’s Love Songs has a perfectly simple plot to it, but it comes with a screenplay so laboured, even pretentious that you wish your reclining seats came with a remote control to fast-forward this drivel.

Mridula Chatterjee’s 20-something grandson Rohan comes home on summer break from law-school and takes it upon himself to know more about her strained relationship with his dead mother. Mridula, played by Jaya Bachchan, who’s raised him single-handedly since he was a little boy, is not entirely prepared to dig into those memories, but on Rohan’s insistence, she goes into flashback mode.

Now there’s something to be said about Indian actors speaking English on screen — they sound affected and they tend to put on strange accents. Bad enough, the dialogues in this film are terribly amateurish, what’s worse is that the actors deliver them with such fake sincerity that the entire film comes off looking contrived.

I can’t imagine what the director was thinking when he cast the beautiful Mallika Sarabhai as the alcoholic singer wife of Mridula’s college sweetheart. Made-up and costumed to look like Salma Agha on a bad day, she’s saddled with ridiculous lines and ends up looking and sounding so bad, you can’t be blamed for suspecting the director was getting some sort of sadistic pleasure in doing this.

What explanation is there also for Shahana Chatterjee’s hysterical performance as Mridula’s rebellious daughter? She shrieks out most of her lines in a voice that reminds you of the one Ramgopal Varma used for the title character in his film Bhoot. Veterans like Jaya Bachchan and Om Puri are wasted in this thankless film, they fail to hide its many, many flaws.

I’m going with one out of five for Love Songs. I didn’t expect a conventional entertainer from this one, but I’m sorry to say it lacks any artistic merit either.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

March 21, 2008

Dirty pretty things

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 7:06 pm

March 21, 2008

Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Akshaye Khanna, Anil Kapoor, Bipasha Basu, Katrina Kaif, Sameera Reddy

Director: Abbas-Mastan

I don’t know about you but it’s been weeks since I last saw a good masala Hindi movie — the kind that requires you to suspend your disbelief and go along for the ride. Thankfully, Abbas-Mastan’s Race is exactly that kind of film, it’s a pretty far-fetched thriller much in the tradition of their previous hits Khiladi and Baazigar, and yet it’s exciting enough for you to stop looking for holes in the plot and to go with the flow instead.

Saif Ali Khan and Akshaye Khanna play Ranvir and Rajiv Singh, brothers who’ve inherited a stud farm in Durban. While the older one Ranvir is focused on saving the business from bankruptcy and an avid derby enthusiast, Rajiv is the aimless, alcoholic spoilt-little-rich-kid. What both men have in common, however is an evil streak which becomes more than apparent as the reels unspool. Sacrificing his love, Ranvir hooks up his younger brother with his sweetheart Sonia (played by Bipasha Basu), hoping marriage will cure his chhota bhai of his drinking habit. Sadly, that never happens. In a moment of weakness, Ranvir and Sonia slip between the sheets, and that incident sets off a series of betrayals, double-crosses and murders.

Add to this mayhem, Ranvir’s doting secretary Sophia (played by Katrina Kaif) who’s nursing a secret crush on her boss, who in turn mistakes her affection for job efficiency. Then there’s the fruit-chomping detective RD (Anil Kapoor), and his dim-witted assistant Mini (Sameera Reddy) who jump into the scene to investigate a mysterious death.

You learn soon enough, that nothing is what it seems, and nobody can be trusted. With enough plot twists to confuse a GPS navigation system, Race keeps you on the edge of your seat for the most part. Like any pacy thriller, Race never reveals all its cards at once. The layers come off one by one, and each time you think you’ve got it all figured out, another shocker hits you out of the blue. That’s not to say you haven’t guessed some of the surprises in advance. If you’ve watched enough Bollywood films — let me rephrase that — if you’ve watched enough Abbas-Mastan films, then surely you can predict at least a few of the twists yourself. After all, brothers back-stabbing each other and wives double-crossing their husbands are staple ingredients of their every film.

Nevertheless Race keeps you engrossed because it’s fast-paced and slick, and because it doesn’t allow you much time to consider its flaws. The dialogue is clunky and full of labored lines, and instead of the clever one-liners you’d expect in a smart thriller, you get cheesy quips that make you cringe with embarrassment. Yeh toh bahut hansta hai,Akshaye Khanna tells Saif about a rival who’s just walked off after rubbing their noses in defeat. To which Saif delivers the idiotic one-liner — Jo hansta zyada hai, woh rota bhi zyada hai”.

You see, Abbas-Mastan aren’t famous for their smart lines or their original screenplays, but they’re usually at the top of their game when they’re dealing with themes that center around sex, lies and murder. And Race is a return to that formula. The perfect antidote for a lazy weekend, Race is not a great film but delivers what it promises to deliver. It’s slickly photographed and has some exciting action scenes, but it’s got too many unnecessary songs that only add to the film’s length.

About twenty minutes shorter and you’d probably enjoy it much more, but in its present form it’s not such a bad deal. Of the cast, Saif Ali Khan stands out as the chap with the least dialogue but the one who makes the best impression, whereas the usually dependable Akshaye Khanna delivers an amateurish performance by hamming through his scenes. Of the ladies, only Bipasha Basu scores with an understated performance. As for Anil Kapoor, what does one say about a fine actor who’s resorted to taking on such tacky roles? Surely you deserve better than those double-meaning dialogues and suggestive scenes!

In the end, Race has fast cars and fast babes, and it’s better than anything else its directors have made recently. Judged purely as a Bollywood thriller, I’ll go with three out of five for Abbas-Mastan’s “Race”. Because there’s barely anything else at the movies currently, I’m going to say – go watch it, you won’t be disappointed. And don’t miss that one scene with Johnny Lever. He’s back after so long and he’s so good.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

March 7, 2008

Grey areas

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 7:09 pm

March 07, 2008

Cast: Anil Kapoor, Shefali Shah, Anurag Sinha

Director: Subhash Ghai

Subhash Ghai’s Black & White is an amateurish effort from a filmmaker clearly out of his depth as far as his subject matter is concerned. The film follows the story of a suicide bomber who seeks refuge in the home of an unsuspecting professor, while all along involved in a plot to blow-up the Red Fort.

Loosely inspired by the Harrison Ford-Brad Pitt starrer The Devil’s Own, Ghai’s film explores the relationship between a terrorist and the couple who open their home and their hearts to him.

Well-intended the film may be, but at plot level itself there’s a fundamental flaw with Black & White, and that flaw is the writer-director’s sheer inability to set the tone of the film. Opening on a note that’s so pretentious you want to puke, Ghai uses redundant symbolism — like a child with a candle — to make a point that’s been made so many times before. To top that, his every character is a caricature that spouts clichés instead of dialogues.

Take Anil Kapoor playing the Urdu professor, for instance. How you cringe at those long sermons he delivers, and then his shameless hamming, especially in that scene where the professor returns home one night to discover a horrible brutality committed on his wife. Not that Shefali Shah, playing the professor’s activist wife is much better. Hysterical for the most part, she’s so over-the-top even in comic and supposedly emotional scenes, you want to remind her, this is film not street theatre where melodrama can be used to great effect.

Newcomer Anurag Sinha, who plays the mysterious stranger with dishonourable intentions, has an arresting screen presence, undeniably, but straitjacketed in a loosely developed role he has little scope to really perform — unless you count his brooding and that ‘angry young man’ impression as a performance.

Black & White falls like a pack of cards because it’s meant to be a serious, even realistic film, a departure from Ghai’s trademark masala musicals. But problem is the director is so unfamiliar and uncomfortable with minimalism that he cannot resist the urge to throw in some of his typical formulas, as a result delivering a film that is both confused and sloppy.

Look at that presumably symbolic scene in which a deaf-mute child plays out a patriotic tune on her piano to a man just hours away from committing a ghastly act of terror. Or that supposedly comic scene in which an elderly poet makes repeated telephone calls to the professor’s home late one night. Or even that indulgent dream song between the terrorist and the young student who’s clearly falling for him.

The sad thing is, for a film that was meant to address an issue, Black & White doesn’t say anything that you don’t already know. The film makes only token nods to patriotism, and if you ask me, I’d say the very themes of terrorism, patriotism and nationalism are just incidental to Ghai’s story which is in fact, about the power of goodness and love which can convert even the serious non-believers. And that, my friends, let’s not forget, is one of mainstream Bollywood’s oldest and favourite themes. So you see Ghai never ventured too far from his comfort zone anyway.

I’m going with a very generous one out of five for Subhash Ghai’s Black & White, it’s a miscalculation in every sense of the word, a film that makes Kisna and Yaadein seem watchable. When it comes to Subhash Ghai, I’d much rather watch his masala musicals any day.

(This review was first aired on CNN-IBN)

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